Summer never seems quite long enough, and who wants to be stuck inside cooking, right? So, say hello to these easy picnic food ideas. From cool refreshing drinks to hot dogs and salad, we’ve got something for everyone. Toss them together, pack them up, and go enjoy summer.

Two tall glasses filled with Greek-style frappe, with colorful straws standing up in them.
Elina Manninen
1 of 10

Greek-Style Frappe

This Greek-style frappe, made with coffee, sugar, water, and milk, is a summer staple. Cool, refreshing, and completely customizable. Here’s how to make it. No blender required.

Keep it cool

Making this to go? Mix up the frappe and pour it into your Corkcicle tumbler, where it will stay cool for hours. Picnics here were come!

A perfect hot dog in a white bun, topped with a squiggle of mustard.
Russell van Kraayenburg
2 of 10

How to Cook the Perfect Hot Dog

The best hot dog means knowing the perfect way to cook a hot dog, whether you roast, grill, simmer, microwave, or turn it over an open campfire. Here’s everything you need to know.

Hot dogs and fixins’ make a picnic

You’ve got plenty of options with these perfect hot dogs. Pack up your portable grill and bring it along, build an open fire, or steam them at home, tuck them in the bun, wrap in foil and head out.

A bowl of homemade yellow mustard next to a wooden spoon filled with mustard seeds.
Rina Jordan
3 of 10

Homemade Yellow Mustard

Homemade yellow mustard is deceptively simple to make from mustard powder, vinegar, and a couple other basic pantry staples. You just may never go back to store-bought! Here's how to make it from scratch.
A jar and bowl of sweet pickle relish with three cucumbers lying beside them.
Andrew Purcell
4 of 10

Sweet Pickle Relish

This sweet pickle relish, made with cucumbers, sugar, onion, salt, mustard seeds, celery seeds, and cider vinegar, is perfect for hamburgers and hot dogs and potato salad, and anything else. So long, storebought.

Don’t forget your veggies

Yes, you need side dishes and vegetables–even on a picnic. The potato salad recipe here is perfect picnic food because it’s easy to make, and there are no eggs or mayonnaise involved, meaning it can sit at a picnic without fear of making anyone sick. In a hurry? Toss together a container of raw vegetables, a bag of potato chips, and this easy dill dip.

A white bowl filled with halved warm potatoes with a person pouring a bowl of basil vinaigrette over the top.
Alison Miksch
5 of 10

Warm Potato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

A summer potato salad couldn’t be easier. Warm baby red potatoes are drizzled with a basil-packed dressing made with garlic, vinegar, and mustard.

Fire up your smoker

We know. Smoking ribs, turkey legs, or a whole pork shoulder sounds a bit ambitious for a picnic. Rest assured, all of these can be prepared at home with minimal effort, then packed up and enjoyed al fresco. (and don’t tell us the idea of sitting under a shady tree munching away on a big ole beef rib doesn’t bring out the Fred Flinstone in you!)

A rack of barbecued beef back ribs on a rectangular platter with a dish of barbecue sauce on the side.
Angie Zoobkoff
6 of 10

Barbecued Beef Back Ribs

These barbecued beef back ribs are easy to make. They're coated with a homemade spice rub and slowly grilled to perfection.
Four smoked turkey legs on a wire rack on a wooden table.
Russ Crandall
7 of 10

Smoked Turkey Legs

Can smoked turkey legs you make at home possibly be as good as the ones at the carnival or theme park? Actually, they're even better. All it takes is a simple brine and a little patience. Here's how to make them.
A whole smoked pork shoulder.
Deborah Llewellyn
8 of 10

Smoked Pork Shoulder

When slow-smoking a pork shoulder, you should figure 1 1/2 hours per pound of pork. A 10-pound, bone-in pork shoulder takes a long time to cook, but for the majority of that time it is in the smoker. You can get it started right after breakfast and have it ready in time for dinner.

Not interested in smoking? Try these simple grab & go picnic foods

Everyone loves chicken salad, so reach for this cooling Vietnamese-style chicken salad. It’s simple-to-assemble salad of cabbage, chicken, cilantro, and dressing that keeps well for several days in the fridge. It’s authentic through and through thanks to its notes of sour, sweet, salty, and heat.

We also have this lovely open-face egg salad sandwich is just as creamy as the classic but calls for nothing but yogurt, garlic, chives, and, natch, eggs. It’s not at all your mother’s egg salad sandwich. Not. At. All.

Confetti Pasta Salad with Yogurt Dressing
: Angie Norwood Browne

Don’t forget macaroni salad! This confetti pasta salad with yogurt dressing is an easy-peasy summer salad. Fusilli, bell peppers, celery, onions, and olives are tossed with a dressing made from tangy Greek yogurt. Who says pasta salads are so 1990s?

Who can resist buffalo chicken, right? No one. Surprise your family and guests with this buffalo chicken dip, which is made with three types of cheese, shredded chicken, and buffalo sauce, is served in a hollowed-out Italian loaf.

Every picnic needs dessert–and every dessert deserves a picnic

Don’t head out on your picnic without something sweet. This easy icebox cake (which David has whipped up every Saturday for the past three weeks) is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, as are the chocolate chip cookies. but if you’re short on time, slice up a watermelon and grab your salt shaker, or toss in a package of store-bought cookies.

A scoop of easy strawberry icebox cake on a white plate with sliced strawberries and a glass baking dish with the rest of the cake beside it.
Jessie Sheehan
9 of 10

Easy Strawberry Icebox Cake

Thin layers of strawberry puree, homemade whipped cream, and vanilla wafers make this easy no-bake icebox cake a classic that you'll want to make all summer long.
Several bakery style chocolate chip cookies cooling on a rack.
Ty Mecham
10 of 10

Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you prefer to use chocolate chunks instead of chips, chop chocolate bars (both milk and semisweet) into big 1/2-inch chunks for these larger-than-life cookies. And I make them the way I love a chocolate chip cookie: with just enough cookie dough to hold the chocolate together.

Originally published June 4, 2022

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

Hungry For More?

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Let’s not mince words here—food on sticks is awesome. We all know it, so grab some skewers and start lining up stuff to grill, roast, toast, and otherwise enjoy.

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